U.S. War Machine... Heading Towards Iran

Revolution #031, January 22, 2006, posted at revcom.us

Over this past week, tensions between the U.S. and Iran got ratcheted up. Iran's government removed seals that kept Iranian scientists from accessing uranium enrichment equipment at Iran's Natanz nuclear facility. Those seals were part of a special deal that Iran's rulers made with European powers for inspection and supervision of Iran's nuclear power program--a deal that provided for much more supervision than is called for in existing international agreements governing the development of nuclear power plants. In response, European powers, including Russia, cut off their cooperation with Iran's nuclear development program.

The tension surrounding these developments comes from the fact that the U.S. and its regional enforcer, Israel, have been increasingly making threats against Iran, and a real danger of a widely escalated war in the Mid-East looms behind the charges and counter-charges surrounding Iran's nuclear program.

Readers might find it hard to imagine, given how bogged down the U.S. is in the Iraqi quagmire, that even Bush and his crew would charge off into a much wider war, with even more dangerous implications. But powerful forces within the Bush regime, as well as a powerful underlying logic, are driving events in a direction where such a conflict is a real danger.

Nuclear Thugs Cry "Nu-cu-lar Terror"

In his 2002 State of the Union speech, Bush placed Iran in the "axis of evil" along with Iraq and North Korea. We know where that led with Iraq. In that speech, Bush said, "Iran aggressively pursues [nuclear] weapons and exports terror, while an unelected few repress the Iranian people's hope for freedom."

Here, as with so many of Bush's accusations in the "war on terror," the hypocrisy is off the charts. Even setting aside who's calling who "election cheaters" and "implementers of domestic repression," which country is it that is right now in possession of over 10,000 nuclear warheads? And the U.S.--not Iran--has declared its right to attack anyone, anywhere with those weapons, with Bush himself having his finger on what he calls the "nu-cu-lar" trigger.

And in the Middle East, acting as a U.S. enforcer, Israel's nuclear weapons arsenal is the world's worst kept secret. Estimates by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Federation of American Scientists put the number of nuclear weapons in Israel's hands in the range of 300-400.

Iran in the Crosshairs of the Ever-Expanding "War on Terror"

One year ago, writer Seymour Hersh wrote in the New Yorker Magazine (1/24/05) that a former high-level intelligence official told him, "This is a war against terrorism, and Iraq is just one campaign. The Bush Administration is looking at this as a huge war zone." And the former high-level official told Hersh, "Next, we’re going to have the Iranian campaign. We’ve declared war and the bad guys, wherever they are, are the enemy."

As we have continually pointed out, the so-called "war on terror" is in fact a war for unchallenged U.S. domination of the planet, even while it takes the form, now, of targeting Islamic fundamentalist forces, and is focused on the Middle East. A key element of this is to lock down strategic control of the main source of world oil. In addition, Bush and his inner circle have identified the potential and need to radically tear up the status quo in the region to create more stable and reliable conditions for more brutal and efficient exploitation of the people and resources (this being the essence of Bush's calls for bringing U.S.-managed democracy to the Middle East).

Over the past few years, U.S. moves in the region have been been challenged not only by Islamic fundamentalist forces, but also in the form of complex contention with European powers like France, Russia, and also China. This contention was the main reason why the U.S. could not get the UN to endorse its war on Iraq.

Within this mix, Iran is a big factor. Iran is a large nation--three times as populous as Iraq. High oil prices have provided its rulers with cash to build up some elements of a national infrastructure, and the regime--while widely hated--has a social base, and might well be able to mobilize even sections of people who oppose it within the country in the event of an attack by Israel or the U.S.

In the 1970s, Iranians were oppressed by a brutal pro-U.S. dictator, the Shah, who was promoted by Jimmy Carter as a model of "Human Rights." During that time, Iran served as a second pillar (along with Israel) of U.S. domination in the Middle East. A nuclear-armed Iran would be a major factor in the balance of power in the region, looming over U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia, and even having the potential to challenge Israel's monopoly of nuclear terror in the region. That potential poses a problem for the U.S. agenda in the Middle East, to say the least!

The European governments have maneuvered in this mix by pushing for inspections by international agencies, while the U.S.--as one might guess--is itching to enforce gangster law in gangster style, and even with gangster rhetoric. In his New Yorker piece last year, Seymour Hersh quoted a senior official of the International Atomic Energy Agency (I.A.E.A.) saying: "The neocons say negotiations are a bad deal.... And the only thing the Iranians understand is pressure. And that they also need to be whacked."

Iran Breaks the Seal

Why did Iran move now to break off its agreement with the European powers by unsealing nuclear byproducts that they had previously agreed not to access? Iranian authorities contend that they need to do this to develop the technology to manage their nuclear facilities, instead of relying on Russia and others as they currently do. But it is also the case that access to these nuclear power byproducts is a component of developing nuclear weapon technology and expertise. Iran's rulers might feel that if a showdown must come, then sooner--while the U.S. is so bogged down in Iraq--would be better than later for them.

As Iran cut the inspection seals, Condoleezza Rice jumped on the phone to line up representatives of European powers and Russia, who are reportedly close to joining the U.S. to bring charges against Iran before the UN Security Council--a move disturbingly reminiscent of the way the U.S. attempted to align other world powers to support their invasion of Iraq.

One factor pushing the U.S. towards a clash with Iran is the way that the rise of Iran intersects the situation in Iraq. The U.S.'s goal is an Iraq that is thoroughly under U.S. domination but with enough stability and internal cohesion to act as a counterweight to Iran and something of a base area for the U.S. in the region. To say that this is not going well for them is an understatement. The scope and ferocity of resistance has compelled the U.S. to rely on and unleash Shi'a fundamentalist militias. These militias, and the puppet Iraqi army in which they play a major role, have a dual nature. They are working under U.S. sponsorship to carry out attacks on Sunni forces opposed to U.S. occupation. But they also have ties to the Shi'a theocratic regime in Iran.

Within the bigger context of conflict between the U.S.'s wild ambitions in the Middle East and the rise of Iran, the increasing influence of Iran in Iraq is a factor tending to push Bush to up the ante, roll Iran and Iraq into a big ball, and try to settle the whole situation decisively with an attack on Iran.

Holding... and Playing? The Israel Card

One form that attack might take is for the U.S. to set its regional attack dog, Israel, against Iran. Last year the British newspaper The Times reported that "Israel has drawn up secret plans for a combined air and ground attack on targets in Iran if diplomacy fails to halt the Iranian nuclear programme." The Times reported that "The inner cabinet of Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, gave 'initial authorization' for an attack at a private meeting last month on his ranch in the Negev desert." That story also reported that Israeli forces used a mock-up of Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment plant in the desert to practice destroying it through a combination of attacks by Israel’s Shaldag (Kingfisher) commando unit and airstrikes by F-15 jets using bunker-busting bombs to penetrate underground facilities.

Right after Bush's second term began, Vice President Dick Cheney give Israel a public "wink and nod" to attack Iran. In an interview on MSNBC (Jan, 2005), he said: "One of the concerns people have is that Israel might do it [attack Iran] without being asked... Given the fact that Iran has a stated policy that their objective is the destruction of Israel, the Israelis might well decide to act first, and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterwards,"

Deciphering this statement, former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski told PBS that Cheney "in fact used language which sounds like a justification or even an encouragement for the Israelis to do it."

A Wild Mix of Contradictions

There are obvious dangers for the U.S. in an attack on Iran, even in the form of an Israeli air strike. Iran has many options for responding, and is a much larger, stronger country with a much more powerful military than Iraq was on the eve of the U.S. invasion. And Iran, along with forces it influences in the region, could strike at U.S. forces in Iraq. Congressman John Murtha has been loudly raising the alarm that the U.S. military in Iraq is 'broken." Some commentators have speculated that the emerging calls for impeachment [see "The ‘I’ Word Surfaces: New Openings and New Challenges," Revolution #30] are linked to forces in the power structure who are getting nervous about the emerging danger of war with Iran.

Overwhelmingly though, "opposition" voices in Congress and in the Democratic Party argue that even though Iraq was a "mistake," we have to "stay the course." This so-called opposition is within, and accepts an imperialist framework that cannot allow the U.S. to "lose" Iraq, much less allow the emergence of Iran as a regional power, let alone a regional nuclear power, that could tilt the balance of forces in this region.

In any event, the noise emanating from the halls of power indicates that the "Iran hawks" are at the wheel. Nobody can predict exactly how this will turn out, but a course is being set towards some form of U.S. attack on Iran, with the potential to unleash great suffering, destruction, and chaos in the region. Any moves by the U.S. against Iran must be opposed by people in the U.S. They are driven neither by a "war on terror," nor by a desire to prevent nuclear war, but by a frenzy to expand empire.

It is also important that the Iranian people, suffering under the oppressive rule of theocratic Mullahs, see a powerful movement to drive out Bush, making clear that Bush and his crew do not speak for the people in this country. That we do not accept and will not go along with this "war on terror" and instead we oppose "our own" regime. Such a movement will make a statement to the people of Iran that huge numbers of people in this country are opposed to Bush, and that terms of this conflict are not "Islam versus the Great Satan." No! Neither side in this conflict can be allowed to impose those terms as the only options in this situation.

In this context, opposing U.S. aggression against Iran helps create better conditions for progressive forces, including communist revolutionaries in Iran, to unite with the anger of the people in Iran towards the fundamentalist Mullahs, and their anger at U.S. imperialism, and lead that anger in a genuinely revolutionary direction.

Nuclear Hypocrisy

Enforcement of nuclear power development rules is about as consistent as foul-calling in the NBA, or refereeing in pro wrestling. Pakistan and India, for example, have not even signed international nuclear development treaties, and they both receive ongoing assistance in their nuclear technology development from the U.S. A World To Win News Service (10/31/05) exposed that that "Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Washington in July [2005] and signed a "strategic partnership" agreement with the U.S.. In this context, President George W. Bush promised India access to American nuclear technology. In return, Singh agreed that India would support the U.S. against Iran at the UN." That same article pointed to the hypocrisy in in the U.S. policy towards Pakistan's nuclear weapons program: "UN weapons inspectors had found traces of enriched uranium [used for making nuclear weapons] on nuclear centrifuges Iran had bought second-hand. The regime claimed it had not used them to obtain the advanced levels of enrichment necessary for making weapons. For many months the U.S. used this as its main argument why Iran should be punished. But it turned out that the traces on the centrifuges came from Pakistan’s use of them to make enriched uranium for bombs before they sold the centrifuges to Iran. Instead of criticizing Pakistan for doing what the U.S. forbids Iran to do, the U.S. dropped the whole matter. Pakistan’s Islamic military dictatorship is now also an important American ally, along with its rival India--and while the U.S. has always encouraged that rivalry to facilitate its domination of both countries, the U.S. intends to keep both regimes in its pocket."

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